A raft of traditionally conservative media outlets are choosing to do the unthinkable: endorse a Democrat for the first time
The Arizona Republic expected to lose subscribers when it endorsed a Democrat for president for the first time in its 126-year history. The death threats, however, were more of a surprise.
“Our sister paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer, had seen subscription loss” after endorsing Hillary Clinton, said Phil Boas, editorial page editor for the Arizona Republic. “We had a sense of what we were facing. It was never a part of our decision making.”
Boas declined to talk about threats against his publication, which was formed by a group of GOP politicians and originally called the Arizona Republican. The paper changed its name in the 1930s, but not its political loyalties.
“You have a man who is so dangerous and so unfit for office that he has to be stopped,” Boas told the Guardian. “The only way you’ll stop him is with Hillary Clinton. She’s a flawed candidate, but she has many good qualities. She respects the office … Trump does not. Trump talks about his genitalia in a national debate. That’s showing complete disrespect.”
The 2016 US presidential race is a making history and not simply because a woman is a major party candidate.
Donald Trump has pushed a raft of conservative-leaning newspapers to endorse a Democrat for the first time. Other publications have endorsed a Libertarian candidate, also a major departure, or – pointedly – not endorsed at all. Wired magazine entered the presidential fray for the first time ever; so did USA Today.
At least 16 newspapers have endorsed Clinton in the general election. At least six have endorsed Gary Johnson. It is hard to find a single one telling its readers to vote for Trump on 8 November.
The publications are using the kind of language to describe the Republican standard bearer and his policies that is usually reserved for genocidal dictators and incurable diseases.
“Unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous”. The Detroit News.
“Vengeful, dishonest and impulsive”. The San Diego Union-Tribune.
“The worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history”. The New York Times.
“Reprehensible”. The Canton Repository.
“A serial liar”. USA Today.
“Utterly corrupted by self-interest”. The Cincinnati Enquirer.
The Arizona Republic began preparing its readers months ago for such a departure with a series of editorials deeply critical of the real estate magnate. The first, Boas said, came after a Trump visit to Birmingham, Alabama.
“A black protestor came into one of his rallies,” he said. “He was spouting things about Black Lives Matter. Trump supporters started punching and kicking him. One had his hands around the man’s neck. Trump stood at the podium and said, ‘Get him the hell out of here’.”
In a television interview, the candidate “doubled down” on his earlier comments, Boas recounted, saying about the protestor, “‘Maybe he deserved to be roughed up a bit’.”
“This is dangerous rhetoric that would incite political violence,” Boas said. “We just started warning our readers. At the same time he made fun of a New York Times reporter who was disabled. We did another editorial … It is beneath all that this country is about. Almost a year ago, we were carving out a place on our pages where we were never going to be able to endorse this guy.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer, another proudly conservative paper, said in its endorsement that it has “supported Republicans for president for almost a century – a tradition this editorial board doesn’t take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times.”
The paper – like most – acknowledged that Clinton has serious flaws: a lack of transparency, bad judgment in using a private email server, 275 days without a press conference. But those reservations, the editorial board wrote, “pale in comparison to our fears about Trump”.
The Republican has cozied up to white supremacist groups, the paper wrote, perpetrated the lie that Obama was not born in the US, praised the country’s enemies while insulting a sitting president, a Gold Star family and a former prisoner of war.
“Of late, Trump has toned down his divisive rhetoric, sticking to carefully constructed scripts and teleprompters,” the Enquirer wrote. “But going two weeks without saying something misogynistic, racist or xenophobic is hardly a qualification for the most important job in the world.
And then there are those publications whose editorial boards could not bring themselves to endorse either Trump or Clinton, no matter how hard they held their noses.
At least a half dozen threw their reputations behind Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate who, in various interviews, could not name a foreign leader and did not know what Aleppo is.
Among them is the always iconoclastic New Hampshire Union Leader. Publisher Joseph W McQuaid began his front-page Johnson endorsement as follows:
“A joke on the Internet: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are together in a lifeboat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. No land in sight. No ships in sight.
“Question: Who survives?
“Answer: The American people.”